Last week’s episode of Cloak and Dagger saw both Tandy and Tyrone achieve the victories they fought all season for. Tandy got evidence against Roxxon, while Tyrone got a confession out of Connors about killing his brother. However, Tandy’s “victory” went bad when she learned a hard truth about her father. “Back Breaker” did much the same for Tyrone and saw both characters fall hard from the heights of the past two episodes.
Unfortunately, it did so with the kind of sledgehammer storytelling that smashed a lot of the solid foundation laid over the past two episodes into tiny pieces. I’m not sure if Cloak and Dagger can put them back together for next week’s finale.
Regression to the Mean
Much of this episode revolved around both characters facing a hard regression in the face of empty victories. The truth of her father’s domestic abuse sent Tandy spiraling hard, as suggested by her accepting Roxxon’s payment for the evidence she collected. Tyrone’s fall occurs after he takes Connors’s confession to the police, only to find a lack of change or self-satisfaction in the result.
As a result both spend the episode steeped in anger. They’re more unlikeable than ever before. The episode frames this as a natural result of the disappointments handed to them. I won’t dispute the logic here, the problem is the execution.
Tandy’s issues here work well. Her downfall makes perfect sense; she fought all season to clear her father’s name. Like many kids, she put her father on an unreasonable pedestal of perfection he could never live up to. Now, hitting your partner is a hell of a lot worse than, say, telling insensitive jokes or embezzling money or something. Still, Tandy thought more of her father than can be expected of any person.
To have that image shattered should affect Tandy deeply. Her reformation has centered around becoming a better person like her father. To have the goal of her positive change shattered makes everything she’s done so far hurt, makes it all feel worse than she did beforehand. So she fell back to old habits when she thought she was happier.
It was hard to see her fall back into her old con artist days with the added, cruel twist of using her hope powers to literally drain the hope from those around her. Having her turn Mina into a bitter person hurt to see. While I’m not that much a fan of Liam, Tandy was downright evil in the way she leeched his hope away. This was Tandy at her worst, a downward turn resulting from a trauma, and it had the effect it should have on those of us watching.
The hope-leeching also served as a solid metaphor for drug use. Tandy definitely got some kind of physical rush from her actions symbolic of drugs, and became addicted. The last time with Liam looked almost like a near-overdose interrupted by Tyrone’s timely interference. Obviously, addiction is an easy way to show a character struggle with the ramifications of trauma, and Cloak and Dagger did a good job showing it with Tandy.
As cruel and unlikeable as she may have been in “Back Breaker,” it was understandable, sympathetic, and never crossed over into the absurd. She hit bottom and by the end was on the long climb back up. I suppose this is no surprise since Tandy’s character arc has consistently been the best on the show. Cloak and Dagger usually hits its highest peaks because of her.
Tyrone has been more uneven, and in this episode was a serious disappointment. Mainly because I never really understood what the hell triggered his downfall.
The scene in the police station almost seemed to frame the moment as a selfish one unbefitting Tyrone’s character. It felt like he was upset that his parents wouldn’t give him credit for being right about his brother’s murderer. Then suddenly, he’s sulking through the hallways and trying to fight everyone. By the end we see that he’s upset because nothing changed as a result of the confession. His parents are trying to move on as if no new news resulted from the confession.
And you know, that does make sense. He thought something more would come of the confession, and he’s right to think that. He’s also right to feel upset about being wrong. Thing is, Cloak and Dagger did a poor job contextualizing his anger or explaining it. It felt like he was upset just because Tandy was upset, and they have to parallel each other at all times. His regression felt a lot less natural than Tandy’s.
It also felt so much meaner, even though his actual actions weren’t nearly so mean as Tandy’s. At least Tandy had some motivation driving her to tear people down to her level. Tyrone had no such motivation. He came across like he was tearing people down just because, rather than due to a desire to make everyone else feel as bad as he did. I didn’t feel sympathy for him like I did for Tandy because his motivations just weren’t there.
There’s also the issue of the setting making the plot of his regression seem unbelievable compared to Tandy’s. I couldn’t help but groan when he tried to punch his priest/teacher and then…seemingly walked away without consequences? That’s not how that works. He just went back to school like it didn’t happen. Plus, the dialogue leading up to the attempted punch was plain awkward.
I’ve said time and time again that Cloak and Dagger works best when it remains subtle, or at least tries to. Tandy’s hope-leeching works better to symbolize her downfall than actual drug use would. The reaction of Tyrone’s parents, and the conversation between him and his mother, were yet another solid positive for the show’s presentation of the racial issues found between black communities and police.
Unfortunately, Cloak and Dagger does not seem to trust subtlety. So we get absurdly blunt scenes that bludgeon you with awkward dialogue, or an overabundance of music montages featuring songs screaming the theme of the scene at you rather than trusting you to get it yourself. There’s also the way it’s treating the Divine Pair stuff completely straight, which I mentioned fearing in previous reviews.
“Back Breaker” was often entirely unsubtle in ways that sometimes hurt to watch. The classroom scenes of the teacher discussing the Hero’s Arc was clearly meant to bludgeon you with explaining why Tyrone and Tandy fell so low, but it felt more like excuse-making for why things happened like they did. Even worse, it completely left plot behind in its attempts to bring its characters low.
Things That Make You Go Hmmm
To say this episode was filled with giant gaps in logic is an understatement. Of course, most of these gaps in logic expectedly centered on Connors, O’Reilly, and the murder of her boyfriend last week. I’m ready to say it now, with only one episode left in the season: O’Reilly and the entire police subplot have been a disaster. There’s nothing the finale can do to save it. At best they can only mitigate some of the damage.
I’ve said before that I’m not expecting The Wire out of Cloak and Dagger. I’m really not. Just give me something plausible and I’ll work with it. The confession scene last week certainly pushed at the edges of logic, but it still worked in execution. I thought it was one of the episode’s best scenes. So long as it provides the characters with strong moments of character development or power and doesn’t require someone like me to scoff at the premise, I can buy it.
“Back Breaker” failed hard. It failed in a way that makes that entire subplot irredeemable.
I can buy the idea of a corrupt police force letting Connors walk despite his confession. It is just a taped confession made under considerable stress and of dodgy legality. Sure, let him stay free while an “investigation” occurs that ultimately “finds” nothing. At the same time, for Connors to walk into a bar full of cops who act like nothing happened suggests an extremely improbable level of corruption bordering on cartoon villainy. But you know, I could buy it. Not cheaply, but sure, I’ll buy it.
Then the “fight” happened, and I could no longer excuse how bad this has all become. Look, cops taking sides with longtime friends over the newcomer is fine. It happens. But for a bar full of cops to watch while Connors beats the shit out of O’Reilly, a woman detective, right after they stopped her from doing the same, was ridiculous in every way. Then they all go and sit with him while O’Reilly lays beaten on the bar floor.
The amount of stupidity here could probably take up this entire review if I wanted. Why would a bar full of cops at the wake of a dead colleague stand there while his girlfriend gets beaten up by a guy they just stopped her from attacking? Why do they not react at all to him basically confessing his guilt while he assaults her? How does it not bother them that Connors is free despite his confession?
Then you have the death of O’Reilly’s boyfriend and it somehow being pinned on Tyrone. How in the world does anyone buy this? Tyrone has absolutely zero motivation to kill this cop. I’m not even sure he could name him. He’s also a kid and a much smaller person than this dead cop. How would he have done what happened to him? Plus, the only person who would want to pin this on Tyrone is Connors, which means the department higher ups would need to accept word from the man who killed Tyrone’s brother that Tyrone killed a cop he has no reason to kill, just one day after Connors admitted to killing Tyrone’s brother.
It all makes absolutely zero sense. It’s a truly awful plotline that will presumably dominate the final episode, and I’m not looking forward to it in the slightest. The “logic” needed to make sense of this makes Littlefinger’s motivations in Game of Thrones look almost simple.
Next week is the finale. Here’s hoping Cloak and Dagger ends on a high note. Hopefully that high note involves relegating the cop plotline to some distant, unimportant corner.
- Seriously, there were 5 musical montages in the first 18 minutes of the show. That’s absolutely ridiculous. Silence is okay! Let things just happen without noise!
- Evita fought back against Tandy’s hope-leeching. I’m curious to find out how, even if I’m still indifferent to her character.
- However, this idea that Tyrone would trust Evita enough to open up rings false when the two have gone like 3-4 episodes without sharing the screen in any meaningful way.
- Evita’s aunt seemingly marked places where Roxxon had pipelines in the ground. New Orleans will be infected by whatever they dig up. I hope they save it for next season.
- One way they may tie the murder to Tyrone is through the murder weapon, which was clearly left behind on purpose. Now, how the hell would it have Tyrone’s DNA or prints on it? Where would it have come from?
- I guess Tyrone beating up one of the kids who attacked him after practice is all the callback we’ll get to that scene.